The second research expedition to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau began in 2017, and Cao Yingfang is a member of it. Its goal is to thoroughly comprehend and monitor the changes in the plateau’s glaciers, biodiversity, and ecological environment. Cao Yingfang is a PhD candidate at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and a young researcher whose field work include collecting soil samples and examining their microbial composition.
In ecosystems, microorganisms play the roles of both synthesizers and decomposers. The emphasis of Cao’s study is on the synthesis of microorganisms, which develop and metabolize in the soil before eventually dying. They do this by using the soil’s unstable carbon in their own synthesis. As the wastes continue to build up in the soil, they transform into stable carbon components that are difficult to breakdown.
This has major implications for the use of soil to control greenhouse gas concentration, lower carbon leaching from the soil, and absorb atmospheric carbon back into the ground, which is unquestionably a potential method of reducing global warming.
Cao’s body had severe affects from the high altitude when she first walked onto the plateau, including a lack of energy and trouble sleeping owing to breathlessness even with the oxygen tank. Despite her physical suffering, she continued to labor for two months in Nagqu Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region of southwest China. The teenage researchers live and work in the environment while drilling ice cores, sampling water, and collecting air. One of the researchers who has dedicated themselves to the plateau’s noble cause is Cao.
I can get here if others can, said Cao. She’s been working on the plateau for more than 400 days, and her study is ongoing.